It’s a very peculiar thing to be discussing divorce when the bride and groom are still making their way back down the aisle to greet the masses… and then to talk about it over and over again, week in week out, year after year.
But that is precisely what the press has done with Britain’s coalition government. When will there be a split? Division in the coalition? Clegg delivers blow to coalition. And now ‘Coalition could unravel before general election, says Cable’.
You have to ask why the instant mistrust, why there was automatic doubt that the coalition could survive. Is the British press so cynical about any political partnership that it simply could not see any way that a coalition could work?
Apart from the Conservatives, surely most people would agree that a coalition government is better than a single party ruling the country. Whatever people might think about painful policies the government has introduced since it came to power, there has to be universal acceptance that they would have been far more painful if the Tories had been given free rein.
Clearly you can’t vote for a coalition in this country, but maybe you should be able to. If you were voting for a government rather than candidates around the country (not feasible, I know, but an interesting idea nonetheless) then maybe you should have the option of putting your tick next to ConDem, LibLab or other party coalitions.
But back to reality. As was pointed out by at least one sensible journalist, if the coalition broke down before the general election, that is if the Liberal Democrats walked out of government, then David Cameron would have to fill all those ministerial positions held by Lib Dems. That would include the Deputy PM, Business Secretary, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, health minister, education minister, transport minister, Home Office minister and many other key roles. It would be a nightmare and would mean the Lib Dems would have forced a minority Tory government (ie an extremely weak administration) on to the UK. What the public would make of the Lib Dems then is anyone’s guess.
No need to worry, though, because it simply would not happen.
Many countries have been operating with coalition governments for decades and it is an accepted state of affairs. For some reason, however, it is frowned upon in the UK. Quite why isn’t clear.
I find it very surprising indeed that serious journalists and commentators have used up so many column inches on the possibility of a split. Of course two political parties will have disagreements, you would expect that. Equally, though, they will find common ground in many areas. Any coalition, like any marriage, will involve some level of compromise, a certain measure of disagreement and sometimes even irreconcilable differences. But does that mean you split up or do you agree to disagree and work around the issues?
If the divorce rates are anything to go by, many continue to choose the former path. But when you are in government, when your role as a public servant is to serve the people to the best of your ability, you have to tough it out, you have to manage your differences and come up with a workable solution.
If the Liberal Democrats walk away from their governmental responsibilities before the five-year term is up they do not deserve to be in government again. But this is a moot point because the situation will never occur. They have signed up for five years and they will serve for five years. Sure, there will be some manoeuvring towards the end and the parties will begin their electioneering early, but there will be no premature split and to keep speculating about it is a waste of good newspaper, magazine, online and air space.
So journalists, when your Editor tells you he wants a piece on the coalition collapsing just give him a two-word response. No, not that one. “Give over” will suffice.